Upon completion of the novitiate year, the novice makes his first profession of vows. These simple vows are ordinarily taken for a period of three years. They can be renewed for another period of time if there is special need to do so. Normally, however, at the end of the three years of simple vows, the religious makes solemn vows for life. The formal listing of ones profession date is always the date of the first profession of vows.
The Profession Form for Solemn Vows
I, brother N.N., make profession and promise obedience to God, and to Blessed Mary, and to Blessed Dominic, and to you Brother Norman Haddad in place of Brother Timothy Radcliffe, Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, and to your successors, according to the Rule of Blessed Augustine and the Constitutions of the Friars Preachers, that I will be obedient to you and your successors until death.
Fr. Bertrand Ryan, OP
When one reads about the evangelical counsels as lived in religious communities of the Church, the usual understanding is: poverty, chastity and obedience. Actually, however, Dominicans only take one vow -- the vow of obedience.1 Without the common profession to live according to the Constitutions of the Order of Friars Preachers, the sacra praedicatio* would not be able to exist. (*sacred preaching2)
Obedience gives unity to the life of the entire Order and is the means by which the individual communities are able to undertake their preaching missions. A community, indeed to remain faithful to its spirit and its mission, needs a principle of unity, which it obtains through obedience. (LOC 17, 1)
It is this common acceptance of the life as envisaged by Saint Dominic that gives the preaching friar the strength to carry on for the course of his lifetime a ministry which is fraught with intellectual effort, frustration and rejection. Obedience gives the friar a sense of certainty in the value of his work, serenity in its execution and security in spite of failure.
Through obedience everything else which pertains to the apostolic life is accepted at one and the same time (LOC 19, 1)
Two detachments, however, are necessary for obedience to be able to bear fruit both in the apostolic ministry and in the personal lives of the friars.
The happy fulfillment of the Dominican vocation requires detachment from both family life and the acquisition of wealth.
The Constitutions regard consecrated chastity in the Order as a move toward "paternity in Christ" because "we become more suitable ministers for the work of eternal regeneration." (LOC 26, 1)
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "You might have thousands of guardians in Christ, but not more than one father, and it was I who begot you in Christ Jesus by preaching the Good News." (I Cor. 4:15)
Without the worries that family obligations bring, the preaching friar is able to devote himself completely to being a father to those whom the Lord sends him with His word.
Yet, the life of the friar is not a lonely one; by sharing a common ministry and common life style, the friar learns to develop the interpersonal relationships which make him an effective preacher. To this purpose, the Constitutions say: "In the common life of their religious and apostolic family, to which they are united in a close bond through chastity, they should also cultivate fraternal love and serene friendship."(LOC 28, 2)
When St. Dominic founded the Order, preachers of the true faith had acquired the custom of traveling about with the accouterments of power and authority. The heretics, on the other hand, who were doing so much damage to the true faith, adopted the life style of poor mendicants, depending only on the goodness and generosity of the people for their survival.
St. Dominic, with that marvelous instinct of grace which made him the saint he is, recognized that the heretics in spite of their erroneous doctrine, were right.
Poverty was necessary for evangelical effectiveness. As a result of this insight, St. Dominic and his companions practiced austere poverty in imitation of the first apostles. They had no fixed income or regular salary, nor were they the recipients of set benefices. Rather they begged daily for the food of the community; hence, the name Mendicant Friars or Begging Friars.
This kind of apostolic poverty, which has become a law of the Order, frees the friar today from a desire to have good things above what is necessary. Moreover, and this is more important, it enables both the individual friar and his community to develop a sense of dependency on the Lord and with it, a sense of trust in the wisdom of His daily provision for our lives. Consecrated poverty frees the friars, as the Constitutions say: "from anxiety about earthly things, so that we may cling to God more closely, be more readily available to him and more boldly speak about Him." (LOC 31, 2)
Of course, the understanding of poverty varies greatly from age to age and culture to culture. Since the purpose of embracing evangelical poverty is to ease the burden of life so that the preacher might more freely devote himself to the proclamation of the gospel, Dominicans today are not expected to live as if twenty centuries of civilized culture had never developed (under God's grace) since Jesus founded His Church. As Paul said speaking about money in the letter to the Corinthians: "This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves. It is a question of balancing." (2 Cor 8:13)
For this reason, the Constitutions say: "[The spirit of poverty] must also animate us according to the forms adapted to different times and places." (LOC, 30)
1. Dominican Legislation Concerning Preaching, William B. Ryan, OP, The Dominican Preacher, The Office of the Promoter of Preaching, Dominican Province of St. Joseph, 1992, p. 18: "Dominic made another important contribution--this to Church law. He not only wanted his friars to serve the Church as preachers of God's word, he also wanted them to live as free men under grace. To put the legislation of his Order as binding under sin would be to subject them to fear of punishment for even minor infractions. Dominic wanted the rule to be observed because it was worthy of observance in order to accomplish the ministry of the Order and bring about the sanctification of its members. He did not want them to obey it simply because breaking the law would lead to condemnation. This spirit of freedom bequeathed by Dominic to his disciples continues to animate the legislation of the Order."
2. Ibid., p. 19: "Although preaching is always the work of a particular preacher, the Dominican preacher does not work alone. The Constitutions say: 'The ministry of preaching is a communitarian task, and it pertains primarily to the whole community; thus in the beginning of the Order a convent (priory) was called 'Sacred Preaching (Sacra Praedicatio).' (LOC 100; 1)"
3. Ibid. p. 20: "The sacra praedicatio is much more than a support system for the individual preacher; it is the reason for his existence. It is not a building; it is a living, active community dedicated to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to which the preacher and his companions are always contributing so that the community itself is an effective force."